Haunter’s Guide To Recruiting Volunteers and Keeping Them

Posted 29 Sep 2011 in HAUNT BUSINESS TIPS, HAUNTER'S CORNER

It’s 7:30 pm…5 actors are here…30 minutes before show time. Now we just need 10 more actors to fill every assigned spot. Are they going to show? I know it’s Saturday night and they’re teenagers; but they should still be here like they said two weeks ago.

7:45pm…

We’ve all been there. That mysterious place between confidence and worry. Hoping your team arrives when they are supposed to. Trusting them to be as passionate as you are about this sport of chasing the scare. But the truth is- if you are the one building the home haunt, directing the big haunt, or being a leader in your choice of dark creation-then you probably have more invested in this than they do. Don’t get me wrong. There are many passionate haunters out there; it’s just different when you’re the owner and leader of the haunt.

So where do you find quality people? And how do you keep them from burning out too soon and keep them around for next year?

Here are a few ideas you can try and implement with your staff, actors, volunteers, and crew members. If you have any good ideas, please share them in a comment below.

RECRUITMENT

  • Social Media – This is the most important time to utilize all the contacts that you have. Your local friends on Facebook. You can narrow down your twitter list to find local haunters and Halloween junkies. Check your email contact list for people you have forgotten about. Think about any application where you have a friend or contact and reach out to them.
  • Pick Up The Phone – Go through your phone contacts and search your old friends. Who has helped before or would make good scare actor. Maybe they can help out with the line or repairs. Most of your friends would be willing if you just ask.
  • Classifieds and Craigslist – You can write out a scary themed “Wanted” ad to get some attention from the locals. If you write a print-ready press release to your local newspaper they might just put in on the front page. It has to be something they think the readers would want to hear about. Use your story as what makes your situation unique. “We are a charity haunt for….” “We have used 90% recycled materials from the neighborhood…” People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The same rules apply for Craigslist.
  • Stopping Strangers – Yes. I admit it. I have used this one. And have been accurate most of the time. I only use this one as a last resort. We kind of know others who might be interested in dark and scary things. Look for tattoos, piercings, heavy metal t-shirts, dark make-up, Halloween jewelry, and use your instincts. Now I’m not saying that all haunters look like this and vice versa; just that this technique works for me.
KEEPING THEM AROUND
  • Have a hiring process – Set up certain criteria for helpers when working at your haunt. Even an audition if they are acting. Even if you are short of help, you don’t want someone there who is going to be unsafe or disruptive. Be up front with your rules and let them know of the consequences. This will also keep everyone with the same goals in mind.
  • Age Does Matter – Kids 16 or younger have difficult time getting rides. Set up a car pool for everyone. Pay for the gas. Try to have an adult with children under 16 because having many kids equals spontaneous laughter and talking. I usually have lots of candy for my little helpers.
  • Use your veteran helpers – The old trustees can help you train, recruit, and supervise the newbies. Treat them well and you’ll have back-up for life. Give them cooler t-shirts than the rest of the crew. If you are making a profit, pay them more. They are your commanders-treat them as such.
  • Reward Good Behavior – People are driven by rewards and power. Set up contests before the season. A $200 prop for “Best Actor”. Free badges or different t-shirts for perfect attendance. Everyone who makes it through the season will get to go to the annual trip to Transworld. Make it tasty.
  • Make Them Comfortable – The more relaxed they are the more they will want to stay. Have a neutral area where they can relax and take a break. Keep refreshments and snacks on hand. We usually fed everyone before we started each night. If you have enough actors, rotate them out to keep them from getting burnt out. Check on them and see what they need. Make sure they have the right tools, flashlights, chairs for sitting, and are feeling like family. Make sure they have what you have.
  • Communicate – The worst thing for an actor sitting in a dark corner is wondering if there is another group coming through or if they are just curled up in a ball for no reason. Have a way to communicate the flow of the line and what’s going on. I’ve used walkie talkies for group leaders and air horns for checkpoints. Once the horn blows everyone has a time-for-action.
  • Show Appreciation – Just by saying “You were awesome when that one girl came around that corner” or “Where did you learn to act like that?” Say “Thank You” and show that you are interested in them and they will keep coming back.
I know there are many more ways to skin a cat so if you have anymore good ideas to add, please comment below. If you want more exclusive content and be the first in line for new products, please subscribe to my list and I’ll send you some cool stuff.
Posted by Brian Foreman

3 Comments

  1. Cynthia Brown
    10 November 11, 6:20pm

    You certainly may. Be my guest!

  2. Cynthia Brown
    02 October 11, 11:37am

    In 9 years, the single best source of volunteers was a banner I put up on a main street that simply said: “Haunted House needs bodies. No experience necessary.” Of course, I still had to explain to a lot of callers that there was no pay, as it was an all-volunteer charity haunt.
    We gathered new and kept old volunteers each year. We didn’t allow kids under 16 unless their parent worked with them, but we still had a lot of kids lie about their age.
    After a local attorney informed me that I had a convicted sex offender working in my dark maze, I started asking for driver’s licenses from all my volunteers, and checking names against offender databases.
    We used a sign-up form, and gave a short tour at “auditions”, along with all the rules for volunteers. We broke each night into two shifts, and asked people to only sign up for the nights and shifts when they could definitely be there. I then cast 4 or 5 extra each night, and when people didn’t show, the extras went in. If we had a full crew, the extras work the line or work as “break monsters” – changing costume and switching rooms all night to give others a break. Unless the crowds were thin, we never stopped the line for breaks.

    To keep them coming back – we made it a tribe. We developed traditions that were exclusive to the haunter tribe. We did a “Magic Circle” each night at opening, with a special chant written for that haunt. We had a traditional final walk-through at the end of each evening by the producer carrying all the ticket stubs, which each monster could fall in behind as we all snaked though the haunt together, singing a song.
    We fed a hot meal each night, giant crock pots food brought in by other volunteers. We had a “monster Mom” who manned the break room and took care of the monsters needs. We had a call-and-response system inside the haunt to keep everyone energized (and make sure they were all checking in)
    Monsters who failed to show without reason, or failed to follow our safety rules were not allowed back, and everyone knew this.
    Most of our haunters did a lot more than act in the haunt – most helped with construction as well, and many helped to design. We let those who wished to take on the responsibility design their own rooms with supervision and guidance. Mind you, we don’t do a kiddie haunt. We focus on making adults and High School kids scream and wet themselves.
    At the final cast party – each volunteer received a special embroidered patch (from stadriemblems.com) that was unique to that year. Haunters were very proud of their patches!
    Producer would keep track of the hours worked by each haunter, and at cast party the “Top 20” would get extra special prizes. We usually ran 7 to 8 performances, and the “Top 20” always had at least 50 hours. The top 4 haunters always had over 100 hours. The very top volunteer who was not the producer always got the best gift. Because we usually did our tear down and cast party the week after Halloween, we were able to buy these cast prizes at the after-Halloween discount sales.

    When I look at all of this, I think what we did was more like a Summer Camp. The traditions, hard work, perks, and lifelong friendships (and haunt romances!) gave each volunteer a shared unique experience the same as the best Summer Camp anyone will remember. That is what kept them coming back.

    • 02 October 11, 7:54pm

      I think maybe you should write my next post! Excellent story and inspirational for all haunters. Thanks for sharing your insights. If it’s OK with you, Can I turn this into another post?

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